Prologue

Hi! My name's Shastree. Perhaps you've heard of me. Then again perhaps not. Who knows these days? Oh well I decided to dispel all the myths concerning certain events so I'm writing down my story. Hope you don't get too bored. Well here I go.

I was only twelve almost thirteen, when things really started getting bad for my race, the Dreil. The Caslo had only just begun enslaving my people at that time. Not that I knew much about that. All I knew or cared about was my family and my coming-of-age ceremony. The coming-of-age ceremony is one of the most important events in our lives. It's when we cease to be children and are considered adults. One of the most important components of the ceremony is our song. Every Dreilin child makes up a song about themselves and sings it at their ceremony. Well I had mine and thought it the best ever written. It didn't hurt that my voice was the best in the region either.

Now I'm sure you're thinking that if they let us make up our own songs that we'd keep going on about how great we were and over-exaggerate our achievements, right? One of the peculiar things about our race is that when we sing a song, the truer the song the better it sounds whereas the more lies it has the worse we sound. Odd thing huh?

Well as I said before, I was almost thirteen. Actually it was on the very day of my birthday and ceremony that things changed forever.

My mother helped me get ready. I had a bath and got scented with all the special floral soaps and perfumes my mother had made. We washed my long black hair, typical of my people, carefully before I got out. I dried myself off quickly and put on my new dress. I had helped my mother make it and thought it was the most splendid thing in all the world.

It was made of deep purple silk with gold embroideries of flowers along the hems and sleeves. A heavily embroidered sash of the same purple silk went around my waist and delicate purple slippers went on my feet.

Once I was dressed, my mother sat me down and began braiding my hair into little flowers. When she was finished it looked as if my whole head was covered in little black flowers. The final touch was the little pieces of purple silk my mother put in the centre of each flower to make them look even more real.

I glowed with pride when we left the house and made our way towards the town's centre square. There was already a stage set up and several people were waiting there.

Suddenly nervous as I realized that the entire town was going to be there to hear me sing, I grabbed my mother's hand and squeezed it tightly. She smiled down at me and squeezed back reassuringly. "You'll do fine, Shastree." She told me confidently.

I smiled back her words making me feel better. My mother took me right up onto the stage and then took her place in the front row, still smiling.

It wasn't long before the rest of the town had assembled and once again my nerves began acting up. I didn't hear a word of the mayor's speech or my father's. All I remember is everyone looking at me and at that exact moment I forgot everything except my song. The song I'd spent so long writing and thinking about popped into my head. Without realizing it, I had begun singing.

The entire crowd was held still as I sang on and on, telling them all about myself, how I felt, what I wished and what I wanted to be. I was just winding the song down when the raiding party struck.

The clattering of hooves was the only warning we had before they came in, slung low on their horses, swords drawn. I was rooted to the spot unable to move as I watched them ride down the mayor, trample my best friend's mother and then run my own father through. My mother was trying to get towards me when they beheaded at the very foot of the stage. That broke my trance. I screamed, voice going shrill as I screamed on and on. One of the men, hands over his ears came over and kicked me. I was so surprised I stopped screaming for the crucial moment he needed to grab me and hit me over the head. I welcomed the blackness that came rushing up to greet me as a release from the mind numbing horror and sorrow I felt.

I don't know how long I was out. It must have been hours because when I woke up the sun was setting, I was bound quite securely and was sitting in a cage-like cart that was slowly moving towards the east and away from my home. That's how I first became a enslaved singer to the Caslo people.